Less than two months after Thailand
In Bangkok, the RG420 cannabis cafe in Khao San, an area of the city popular with foreign backpackers, just opened last week. But the new enterprise is already busy with hundreds of tourists each day, leading owner Ong-ard Panyachatiraksa to consider opening additional locations for his new business venture.
“Europeans, Japanese, Americans — they are looking for Thai sativa,”
In the crowded smoking lounge at RG420, a reference to Rag Gan, a Thai expression meaning “love each other,” U.K. tourist Malik Khan talked to reporters after rolling a joint.
“This country is beautiful, and there’s so much to do here as well,” said 26-year-old Khan. “It (cannabis) adds to the scene really nicely.”
Cannabis Reforms Enacted Earlier This Year
In June, the Thai government removed cannabis from the nation’s list of banned substances, making the nation the first in Asia to decriminalize marijuana. Under Thailand’s new regulations, marijuana and hemp cultivation and commerce are no longer illegal. Restaurants and cafes are permitted to sell foods and beverages infused with cannabis, but only if they contain no more than 0.2 percent THC. Products with higher concentrations of THC are permitted for medicinal purposes only.
The decriminalization of cannabis has led to an upswing in public consumption, leading officials to make attempts at discouraging recreational marijuana use after the reforms were already put in place. Bans on public smoking of cannabis have been enacted, as have prohibitions on selling cannabis to those less than 20 years old.
“The law does not cover recreational cannabis use… and so tourism promotion is focused on medical (aspects),” the national tourism authority’s Deputy Governor, Siripakorn Cheawsamoot, said in a statement.
Restarting a Stalled Economy
Thailand has seen a steep decline in tourism since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading the government to view cannabis as a way to bolster the country’s tourism and agricultural industries. Foreign arrivals shrank to two-million visitors in the first half of 2022 from nearly 40 million in 2019, striking a blow to the industry that is normally responsible for about 12 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.
Anutin Charnvirakul, the Thai health minister and deputy prime minister, told CNN before the policy reform was enacted that legalizing cannabis will help foster economic growth and development in Thailand. But he noted that the non-medical use of high-THC cannabis is still not allowed under the new policy.
“It’s a no,”
But the new policy has essentially made most cannabis activities legal, including home cultivation and consumption. The change has made Thailand the country with the most liberal cannabis laws in Asia, and a leader in reform worldwide.
“One thing is clear. You cannot go to jail in Thailand just for using cannabis any more,” Tom Kruesopon, an entrepreneur who helped persuade the government to change its approach to cannabis,